Playwright Eve Ensler has turned her feminist work The Vagina Monologues into a cottage industry, parlaying repeated, star-studded readings of the piece into an Off-Broadway hit, as well as productions in Chicago, Los Angeles and London, and a multi-nation tour. The fame of the title has almost obscured the fact that she wrote other plays before dedicating herself to Monologues.
Now, beginning Nov. 23, Hartford Stage reminds the theatre world that there is life beyond Monologues, as it premieres Ensler's latest work, Necessary Targets.
Targets is based on interviews Ensler conducted, Anna Devere Smith-like, with women who survived the atrocities and warfare which reigned during the 1990s in the states which made up the former Yugoslavia—a conflict which was known for the use of sexual violence against women as a war tactic. From these conversations, Ensler shaped a drama about two American women who—somewhat like the playwright herself—travel to Bosnia to help female victims confront their experiences. One character is a Park Avenue psychiatrist, the other a young writer.
Ensler, always well-connected, elicited a quote about the play from actress Meryl Streep (who took part in an early reading of the work). Streep wrote, "[Necessary Targets is] a journey into the very human stories behind the headlines—a brave, powerful, and crucial testimony against violence aimed at women as an act of war." Targets was developed in Hartford Stage's Brand:NEW festival.
The cast includes Shirley Knight (as J.S.) and Catherine Kellner (Melissa). Filling the roles of the Bosnian people they interview are Diane Venora (Zlata), Alyssa Bresnahan (Jelena), Rosemary Murphy (Azra), Marika Dominczyk (Seada) and Maria Thayer (Nuna). Michael Wilson directs. The production runs through Dec. 23. Knight last appeared on Broadway in Horton Foote's The Young Man From Atlanta, while Venora starred opposite Liev Schreiber in Hamlet and Kelsey Grammer in Macbeth, and Murphy was last seen as one of the theatrical retirees in Noel Coward's Waiting in the Wings.
—By Robert Simonson The young New York City theatre troupe, The Keen Company, is two for two. The troupe hit the ball out of the park with its very first offering, the New York premiere of Conor McPherson's The Good Thief, starring Brian D'Arcy James and staged by Forsman. The show transferred to an Off-Broadway commercial run and won James an Obie Award. It has since played the Garter Lane Theatre in Waterford, Ireland.
Now, its second production, a revival of John van Druten's seldom produced The Voice of the Turtle, is moving uptown. The mounting, directed by Carl Forsman, began Sept. 7. Official opening was Sept. 8 for a run ending Sept. 30, at the Blue Heron Theatre. The show, which was largely praised, will reopen at the Mint Theatre (which is producing the new run), Nov. 23, for a six-week run. The play neatly fits into the mission of the Mint, which gives new stagings to neglected works of the past.
In Turtle, Elizabeth Bunch stars as Sally Middleton, who has sworn off love since an affair with a married producer went south. That is, until her best friend Olive (Megan Byrne) leaves her alone with Sergeant Bill Page (Nick Toren). Turtle originally opened on Dec. 8, 1943, and had a very long run (1,557 performances), though it is little remembered today. Margaret Sullavan starred as Sally under van Druten's direction.
Van Druten's other plays include The Distaff Side, I Remember Mama and, perhaps most famously, I Am a Camera. He was also a well known director. One of his last assignments was the staging of The King and I, which bowed on Broadway the same year as Camera.
Tickets are $35. The Mint is located at 311 W. 43rd St. Call (212) 315 0231.
— By Robert Simonson